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SMF Service Quick Reference

This quick reference provides the most common usage patterns without having to sort through a lot of documentation. For more detailed information see the SMF Guide or the smf(7) man page.

List Services

To list all enabled services:


To list all services, including disabled services:

svcs -a

To check the status of a single service:

svcs <fmri>

Obtain detailed information about a service:

svcs -l <fmri>


# svcs -l smartdc/metadata
fmri         svc:/system/smartdc/metadata:default
name         VM Metadata Daemon (node)
enabled      true
state        online
next_state   none
state_time   March  3, 2023 at 07:44:10 PM UTC
logfile      /var/svc/log/system-smartdc-metadata:default.log
restarter    svc:/system/svc/restarter:default
contract_id  117
dependency   require_all/none svc:/system/filesystem/local (online)
dependency   require_all/none svc:/system/smartdc/vminfod:default (online)

Service States

A service may be in one of several states:

  • online - The service is enabled and running
  • disabled - The service is administratively disabled. No attempt to start the service will be made.
  • offline - The service is enabled, but not running due to a missing dependency
  • maintenance - The service has encountered a problem
  • legacy_run - The service is known, but not managed by SMF. In general you should leave these alone.

If the service state has an asterisk (e.g., online*) it means that the service is transitioning to that state.

Changing States (start/stop services)

To bring a disabled service online, enable it. Services that are enabled will be started automatically.

svcadm enable <frmi>

To disable an online service, disable it. Services that are disabled will be stopped automatically.

svcadm disable <fmri>

A service may be enabled or disabled tempoarily using the -t flag. This means that the boot up preference will not be changed.

svcadm disable -t <fmri>
svcadm enable -t <fmri>

After a config change you will likely need to restart the associated service. Restarting a service calls the service's stop method, then the start method without modifying the desired state. Note: Restarting a service that is not online has no affect. See below for troubleshooting offline and maintenance states.

svcadm restart <fmri>

Troubleshooting Service Failures

A service that is enabled but not running will either be in offline or maintenance state.

List all services with a problem

svcs -xv

This will print out extended information about why the services cannot be brought to online state.

Services in offline State

A service that is offline is missing a required dependency. To correct this the missing dependency must be satisfied. This may include addressing other services that are offline or in maintenance state, or mising files/directories.

Services in maintenance State

A service will be moved to maintenance state if it exits 10 times within 10 seconds. This is usually due to an error. The program may be crashing, or it may be exiting due to a configuration error.

In order to determine the cause of the error, you will need to examine the logs. The SMF service maintains a log file of all STDOUT or STDERR emitted by processes in the service.

To retrieve the name of the SMF log file:

svcs -L <fmri>

Note that in SmartOS many services will emit logs in bunyan format. To pretty-print these logs use the following:

cat $(svcs -L <fmri>) | bunyan
tail -f $(svcs -L <fmri>) | bunyan

Third party services, especially those installed via pkgsrc will usually be configured with a specific application log, or may log messages to syslog. The exact behavior will depend on the application itself, so you may need to consult the documentation for the application to determine where logs are being recorded.

Repairing a Service in maintenance State

Once you have corrected the condition causing the failure, clear the service:

svcadm clear <fmri>

This indicates to SMF that the error condition has been corrected by the operator. SMF will then attempt to bring the service to the desired state. If the service is enabled, it will start the service and attempt to bring it online. Be aware that there may be additional error conditions that cause the service to return to maintenance state For example, multiple errors in the application config file, and the application only reports the first error.

Note: Clearing a service does not do anything to correct the error condition. It only indicates to SMF that you fixed it, and that it should try again.

Creating Custom Services

SMF services are two parts:

  • A manifest file
  • One or more commands to run, referred to as methods

SMF Manifests

An SMF manifest is an XML file that describes the service. The best way to generate an SMF manifest is to use either manifold or smfgen.

manifold is a python program available via pip that will interactively prompt you for parameters. New users often find manifold easiest. manifold is maintained by an illumos community member.

smfgen is a JavaScript program available via npm that will take a JSON file as input and output XML. Experienced users often find smfgen gives them a great deal of control. smfgen is maintained by the the Triton team. See the smfgen documentation for more details.

Here is an example of using smfgen:

$ cat bapi.json
    "ident": "bapi",
    "label": "Boilerplate API",
    "start": "node bapi.js"
$ ./smfgen < bapi.json
<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE service_bundle SYSTEM "/usr/share/lib/xml/dtd/service_bundle.dtd.1">
    Manifest automatically generated by smfgen.
<service_bundle type="manifest" name="application-bapi" >
    <service name="application/bapi" type="service" version="1" >
        <create_default_instance enabled="true" />
        <dependency name="dep1" grouping="require_all" restart_on="error" type="service" >
            <service_fmri value="svc:/milestone/multi-user:default" />
        <exec_method type="method" name="start" exec="node bapi.js &amp;" timeout_seconds="10" />
        <exec_method type="method" name="stop" exec=":kill" timeout_seconds="30" />
        <template >
            <common_name >
                <loctext xml:lang="C" >Boilerplate API</loctext>

SMF Methods

An SMF method is used to start or stop a sevice.

The start method is used to start the service and may be as simple as invoking the desired command.

The stop method is used to stop the service and may be as simple as the special :kill key word, which will send signals to the processes in the service group.

Often, the start and stop method are combined into a shell script that accepts start and stop subcommands. This is very similar to System V init scripts that you are likely familiar with.

SMF method script should source the file /lib/svc/share/ which includes a library of features. See the contents of that file for details.

Importing Your Custom Service

Having both a manifest file and a method file, place the manifest file in /opt/custom/smf. This directory does not exist by default, but will persist between reboots. The method script can be in any location, and for this reason the manifest should refer to the method script by the absolute path name. Method scripts are commonly placed in /opt/custom/smf or /opt/custom/bin, but this is not required. Using /opt/myapp/bin or any other persistent location is also fine.

To import the service:

svccfg import /opt/custom/smf/<manifest>.xml


svcadm restart manifest-import

After import, run svcs to check the status of your service.

Removing Services

To remove a service you need to:

  • Stop the service (svcadm disable <fmri>)
  • Delete the manifest (rm /opt/custom/smf/<manifest>.xml)
  • Delete the service (svccfg delete <frmr>)

Note: Removing services other than those in /opt/custom/smf will likely have undesirable affects and is not recommended.